A man loses his pet bird and finds a new friend when a magical plant temporarily transforms his urban neighborhood into a dense jungle.
Mr. Finch, pictured as a white, balding, mustachioed man dressed in a suit and tie, overcoat, and tall old-fashioned hat, lives in a small attic room. He enjoys the company of his bird, Pip, and worries when Pip ceases chirping. An improved view and larger cage don’t make a difference so, enticed by a clever sales pitch, Mr. Finch purchases a “very special plant” in hopes of cheering up his pet and sets into motion an unlikely transformation of his environment—and the loss of Pip. His subsequent search for the bird broadens his horizons and sets the stage for a new friendship. Baas’ relatively lengthy text has a slightly formal tone that complements the old-fashioned, cartoon-style illustrations, which are reminiscent of William Steig’s. The limited palette, primarily in green, with red outlines and highlights and occasional details in black, further establishes the retro feel. A wordless gatefold follows an emotional description of Mr. Finch’s distress, immersing readers in the fantastical setting. The appearance of a generic Indigenous man, with body and face paint and holding a spear, gives pause but matches the overall sensibility.
Adult characters, a plot with limited child appeal, and use of stereotype may keep this import, originally published in French, from flying high in the U.S. (Picture book. 5-8)